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The Buzz, 7-9: Bring back Rockwell
Macaulay spits on Pina's grave

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2009 Paul Ben-Itzak

Alastair Macaulay's June 30 New York Times screed on Pina Bausch, delivered even before the late great choreographer's body was cold (she died of cancer that morning), descended to new levels of ignorant gutter-sniping. If this ill-considered drivel were just being peddled on an uninhabited desert dune it could be ignored, but given its appearance in a mass-circulation outlet, where millions of people risk to believe it and thus deprive themselves of the uniquely transcendent experience of a Pina Bausch performance because of an unperceptive, shallow observer with limited aesthetic understanding, Macaulay needs to be called out. So, taking his ignorant calumnies one by one:

"The way her performers would make a point of forcing themselves to do adagios, turns and jumps -- drawing to your attention all the muscular, stylistic and technical imperfections that obviously flawed the dancers as ballet technicians -- was part of the extraordinary masochism she often placed onstage."

When your name is Alastair Macaulay, clearly ballet technique is at a premium, and anything else is second class. Anyone with half an eye can see that Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal has always been resplendent with technicians of the highest order. Shantala Shivalingappa dances with a technical mastery and precision that would make that of many ballerinas pale by comparison, but her problem, to Macaulay's eye, is that her form is not Western classical but Indian Kuchipudi and thus it doesn't register with him. Dominique Mercy can convey more with a slump than a thousand fouettés, but Macaulay doesn't value this kind of dance expression as a technique.

What's being dissed, in case you didn't get it, is not just Pina Bausch but anything that falls outside the very narrow realm of Macaulay's proscribed dance experience and limited knowledge and comprehension.

"How much of her choreography, if any, can survive her?"

How much of Macaulay's writing can survive the daily fish-wrapping? When the name Alastair Macaulay is just remnants on disintegrated newspapers in recycling plants, the name Pina Bausch will still be resonating in millions of souvenirs in millions of hearts.

"What is scarcely diminished by Ms. Bausch's death is the art of dance."

What is scarcely enhanced by Mr. Macaulay's limited observatory and reflective capacity -- not to mention this kind of shitting on the fresh grave of a master whose bare feet he isn't fit to lick -- is the metier of dance criticism. the reputation of the New York Times, and, fundamental, respect for dance and its heroes.

"I have used the word incoherent about her: it applied most obviously to the structure of most of her works."

Pina Bausch's works are about as incoherent as a Stravinsky symphony. The problem, here, is not the incoherence of Pina Bausch's vision but the inability of Alastair Macaulay -- and, thus, the New York Times -- to see.


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